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Ghana 2002


There was litter in Funsi. This was an extraordinary shock to me, as in such a close knit community, where you live near where you work and know everybody, I would have thought everyone would keep the place tidy. It was of no concern to them, there was just no training that modern litter would build up over time, and not biodegrade like traditional litter did.

Visiting Ghana has made me more concerned about sustainability and the environment, and less about direct development. This is because the country feels like it is developing itself. The newspapers talk about development all the time, and there are lots of active and industrious people, making it happen. Quality of life is improving.

Walkway above a rainforest canopy at Kakum National Park.

So my mind visualises Ghana in fifty years time. And I hate the place. Everyone will drive round in air conditioned cars, have swimming pools, and live on large chunks of deforested land. It's like the environmentally worst aspects I imagine the US has, and certainly not a liberal, green, public-transport oriented European city.

Ghana takes the technologies from developed countries that work and are cheap and useful. At the moment this naturally means the internal combustion engine, and I make no criticism of Ghanaians for this. Indeed, I couldn't expect them to do anything else. My goal, my hope has always been for the whole world to develop. If it does I now see that it wouldn't possibly work using current technology.

So it now seems much more important to me that we sort out our technology, and/or our culture (please argue amongst yourself which of the two needs the most change) in the West. Hydrogen powered cars refuelled from solar panels and wind turbines are clearly the way to go, if you remotely accept the evidence about global warming. As soon as this technology is any good, Ghanaians will use it no worries.

Beach at Accra

All this is a view of Ghana, one of the better off sub-Saharan African countries. I couldn't move for development programmes there, just driving down any road you see signs announcing EU funded projects, or the presence of the Peace Corps. So it isn't surprising that it made me think about how to make the development sustainable.

Other countries, and Ghana itself at times, are less lucky. War and human rights violations will stop development in their tracks. Also, there are still places with extreme poverty, that need some external catalysis before they can develop themselves. To really understand what "international development" is for, I need to visit those places.


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